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Take These Steps When You Have Back Spasms

Frequently occurring back spasms or spasms that turn painful should not be ignored. Sometimes these back spasms are also a symptom of a serious disorder that must be evaluated by a specialist. Consult Dr. Eric Freeman to learn about the possible causes and best remedies for treating your painful muscle spasms. The board-certified pain and rehabilitation specialist focuses on finding the underlying causes behind your condition and easing your discomfort effectively without surgery. He recommends lifestyle changes, medications, and therapies that are tailored to fit your needs to avoid future flare-ups of pain.

Spasms are involuntary contractions of muscles that fail to relax. They can occur in any muscle of the pain and cause sharp and intense pain. They can start with no warning, or as a mild twitch that leads to chronic spasms with agonizing pain.

These spasms may last anywhere from a few days to weeks. When the muscles contract, they also feel hard to touch or appear twisted under the skin. Spasms are your back’s way of telling you to avoid a certain activity, or they could be a warning sign of a more serious underlying issue in the spine.

What Is a Back Spasm?

A back spasm is a sudden tightness and pain in the back muscle. It may result from overuse or an injury. Sleeping awkwardly, bending, lifting, standing, or sitting can also cause a spasm. Back spasms can range from minor discomfort and stiffness to sharp, severe pain and muscle tightening, which makes it difficult to move.

Treatment for back spasms depends on their causes. If your muscle spasms are resulting from some injury or trauma, your doctor may recommend rest and avoiding activities that are causing pain. Home treatment includes over-the-counter pain medications, gentle massage, and hot showers to ease the pain.

Back spasms that do not get better with home care may require prescription medication. In some cases, exercise and physiotherapy also help to improve strength and flexibility in the back muscles to control these spasms. It is best to consult a doctor to have your condition accurately diagnosed before proceeding with any treatment.

Back Spasm

How to Ease Back Spasms

Here are expert-recommended three important steps to take when you have back spasms to relieve the pain.

Apply Heat

Warmth increases the flow of blood and relaxes the muscles. You can use a heating pad or take a hot shower to soothe the muscles, increase blood flow and ease the pain.

The blood carries essential nutrients and growth elements to the affected or injured area. Thus, if your spasms are resulting from injury, increasing blood flow through heat can help with healing and make you feel better. Limit the application of heat to 15 or 20 minutes at a time. Give your skin a couple of hours to recover before another application.

Apply Over-The-Counter Topical Creams

Over-the-counter topical creams are formulated to combat muscle pain and offer quick relief. The active ingredients in these creams are counterirritants, salicylates, or lidocaine that numb the pain, distract your mind from the discomfort, and help you feel better in a short time.

Experts recommend applying the creams in thin layers no more than three or four times a day. Commonly used counterirritants in topical creams are menthol, eucalyptus, and wintergreen. Salicylates are aspirin-like compounds, and lidocaine is a topical anesthetic.

Massage the Painful Muscle

Massaging the contracted muscle gently can help to reduce the tension, stretch the muscle and allow it to relax. If you feel a spasm coming on, you can also massage the muscle as a preventive measure.

Other ways to treat back spasms include:

  • Cold therapy – Apply ice to the affected area on the back. Wrap the ice pack in a towel or cloth and put it on the skin for about 20 minutes. Cold can reduce local inflammation, which in turn, helps to relieve pain.
  • Over-the-counter pain medications – They include acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications that keep down inflammation and pain.
  • Muscle relaxants – If your pain does not ease with over-the-counter pain relief medications, your healthcare provider may recommend a muscle relaxant to ease the tension in the muscles and alleviate the pain.
  • Physical therapy – In some cases, physical therapy becomes necessary. The trained and licensed therapist helps you learn relaxation techniques and stretches that strengthen the back muscles and prevent further spasms.
  • Moderate activity – Experts recommend moderate activity to stretch your muscles every day, especially before and after exercise and at bedtime. Regular stretching for about 5 to 10 minutes can keep the muscles relaxed and also prevent future problems by strengthening the back and stomach.
  • Increase electrolyte consumption – Electrolytes are minerals that control muscle contractions throughout the body, including your heart. A lack of electrolytes or electrolyte imbalance in the body, either due to stress or poor nutrition, can lead to spasms. Essential electrolytes include calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which can be obtained from whole foods such as avocados, potatoes, spinach, fresh meat, and eggs. Drinking water with salt can also increase electrolyte consumption.

The best course of action for relieving a temporary back spasm is to get rest, take it easy, and call your doctor if the pain does not get better. Sometimes a change in posture can also help you feel better. Try to sit and lie in positions that are most comfortable so they can reduce the pain.

When to See a Doctor for Back Spasms?

You do not have to live with back spasms and other types of back pain. Consult your doctor if your symptoms are not easing, or your pain continues despite home treatments. It could be a sign of some underlying condition that needs proper investigation.

Call your doctor if you are unable to move because of the pain or also experience the following:

  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Muscle weakness in arms or legs
  • Odd sensations or numbness or weakness on one side of your body
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Loss of a sense of feeling in your limbs

If you develop back spasms, do not let them interfere with your normal life and activities. Schedule an appointment at Redefine Healthcare to determine what is causing these spasms and how you can combat these painful episodes most successfully. Dr. Eric Freeman has been treating patients suffering from various back and spine problems and offers the most advanced pain management treatments available today to help you feel better. He focuses on determining the causes behind your spasms to reduce or eliminate the pain, ensures long-term relief and prevents future complications.

Page Updated on Dec 12, 2022 by Dr. Freeman (Pain Management Specialist) of Redefine Healthcare


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Dr. Eric D. Freeman

Dr. Eric D. Freeman is a top-rated, best-in-class pain management doctor. He is a nationally recognized pain relief specialist and is among the top pain care doctors in New Jersey and the country. He is an award-winning expert and contributor to prominent media outlets.

Dr. Eric D. Freeman has been recognized for his thoughtful, thorough, modern approach to treating chronic pain. He has been named a “top pain management doctor in New Jersey” and one of “America’s Top Physicians” for advanced sports injury treatments.

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